Most people's parents screw them up; it stands to reason that I am messing up my own child.
I would just like to know how.
What, precisely, am I doing that will make my 7-year-old daughter narcissistic, or overtly self-conscious, or incapable of commitment, or whatever?
If I want to forestall her smoking crack and knocking off Wawas in 10 years, how should I be dealing with the girl now?
I should say that she's a great and grinning child, which has little to do with me. Any good-time dopamine neurotransmitters that float like party balloons in her head bubble down from her Mayan ancestors rooted in Guatemala's rich alluvial soil.
Not content to celebrate life alone, the Little Girl will ask me, "You happy, dad?" compelling me to co-conspire in the fun.
Still, I believe she's a relatively blank slate upon which I am spraying the rough graffiti of my own hang-ups.
In the beginning of Laura Schlessinger's book, “Stupid Things Parents Do to Mess Up Their Kids: Don't Have Them If You Won't Raise Them,” there's a so-called father's pledge reprinted from an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by Bill Watterson:
"I, the undersigned Dad, attest that I have never parented before, and insofar as I have no experience in the job, I am liable for my mistakes and I agree to pay for any counseling in perpetuity Calvin may require as a result of my parental ineptitude. "
I would be perfectly willing to sign such a document.
Lately, I've been cataloging my sins and the inevitable, negative ramifications for my girl:
I drank milk out of the carton; this will inspire sloth.
I scolded her for drawing on the pages of my address book; this will stunt her creativity.
I spent three minutes trying to get a chocolate ice cream stain out of her shirt; this will doom her to being overly fastidious and uptight.
I let her eat chocolate ice cream; this will produce a person with no self-control.
I watched 5 minutes of a “Sopranos” rerun with her in the room, then she turned to me and smilingly said the f-word. This will remake her as a dirt-mouthed outcast. Or she'll become Martha Stewart.
I just know I'm doing something wrong. And, without a doubt, I know the kid will blame me someday.